As a business leader, do you truly understand how your organization’s technology affects the success of your business? I’ve noticed that executives often see technology as a necessary expense rather than as a tool to help them grow.
As a result, a disconnection emerges between the technology side and the business operations at many companies.
The IT department says it needs more money to improve performance. But the executives are hard pressed to make these investments because they are only seeing and hearing about it in dollars and cents. What if, instead, business leadership insisted on knowing how technology is going to transform the company?
That would mean that you get involved in technology discussions right from the start, and stay engaged in the process throughout. I’m not proposing that a CEO or CFO must become a technology expert. Instead, the goal is to surround yourself with those who are experts, learn how to communicate with them effectively — and most important, ask good questions.
Adapting to this approach takes time, so the need for executive understanding and ongoing involvement in the process is critical to the success of most IT initiatives even before a single dollar is spent.
I would contend that no investment should be made in IT without a clear understanding at the executive level as to how it will benefit the organization. Executives should be asking questions such as:
- What is the goal of this project?
- What aspect(s) of our business will benefit from this investment?
- How will these benefits be managed and measured to ensure that they are producing the desired results?
- How will this investment make us more competitive in our industry?
- How will it improve our overall profitability?
- Who will be accountable for ensuring that the improvements are successful?
Where Companies Fail
One failure area for many businesses is mismatched expectations. The IT staff has its view of what the business should expect to gain, and the executive team has another. When these two visions do not match, it can lead to frustration on both sides, and a hesitation on the part of the executives to make future investments.
Executives should expect the IT team to get them involved early on in the planning process. They should present you with a business case, including facts and projections of the things that matter most to your business. Don’t let your technology staff assume that you don’t get it, or that you don’t care. Transforming a business with technology is exciting, and when technology officers make a strong business case, every executive I know has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the process of using technology as a business tool.
Another critical success factor is getting the right technology partner involved to help you plan, design and deploy business-transforming solutions. This means a partner that understands both the business and technology aspects and how one impacts the other.
My challenge to you as a business leader is to think about how technology is being used as a tool for growth in your own organization. If you cannot quickly identify how you are using IT to improve and manage your business, we should arrange a conversation about what you think you are getting out of your IT investment, what you would like to get out if it, and whether or not your expectations are matching reality.
Things move fast in today’s technology driven business world, so if you aren’t keeping up with the pace of change, I can promise you that one of your competitors is.